LEGO and Gender Stereotyping

A couple of interesting videos have popped up on about LEGO and their very gender stereotyped marketing. For the last couple of decades they have focused almost entirely on marketing to boys. Now they have decided to target the half of the marked that they have previously abandoned and ignored, the girls, and again they do so by playing heavily on stereotypes.

The first video discusses this new marketing strategy aimed at girls where they focus on pastel colours, beauty and cooking – among other things.

In the second video the stereotyping of boys is addressed. It is pointed out how competition and aggressive behaviour is encouraged and how clear boundaries are drawn between what is boy’s play and what is girl’s play. This is probably the most disturbing aspect of what LEGO is doing. Not only do they assume what boys and girls like, but they actively enforce gender stereotypes on kids for then to claim – after the industry has been doing this for years – that this is actually what kids want. Can everyone say “cir-cu-lar”?

So what is it LEGO think they’re doing? From the above video:

LEGO spent four years, and millions of dollars to research the desires of girls to make another Barbie wasteland and continue to ignore the fact that they already have a potentially great product for girls, it is called LEGO – or it used to be.

LEGO make a point about their self-fulfilling marketing strategy being based on research. As I have pointed out before in posts about toys and gender stereotyping of kids, these stereotypes are not natural or self evident. They are a result of such marketing itself. Again, this article comes in handy: “When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?”.

Lisa Wade at Ms. Blog also points out how LEGO hide behind “research” to defend their current marketing strategy.

The company is framing their new line for girls with “science.” Executives are going to great lengths to explain that the line is based on research, using anthropologists who spent time with girls in their homes. The frame gives the company an excuse for reproducing the same old gender stereotypes that we see throughout our culture. They can shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, what are we to do? This is what girls want.” In this way they are trying to make it clear that they shouldn’t be held accountable for the messages their products send.

LEGO was my favourite toy when I was a kid back in the 80’s. I hate to see what they have become. The products I see in the stores these days are nothing like the toys that inspired me when I was little. Me and my cousin used to play all day with them. She is a lone child and had more LEGOs than I could ever dream of having. There was no such thing as girl’s LEGOs and boy’s LEGOs then – and there never should be.

Thanks to @reddyforthis for pointing me to these videos.

Also posted on We are SkeptiXX

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